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The State Of Progressive Web Apps Adoption By Developers

daviddalbusco profile image David Dal Busco Originally published at Medium ・5 min read

Photo by YTCount on Unsplash

Following this week’s “Apple vs Hey” story I was curious to know if Progressive Web Apps, which can be seen as a solution to such issues, are mostly preached by developers or are actually already adopted too 🤔.

To answer my questions, I ran some polls on Twitter and learned some interesting facts and figures which I would like to share with you in this new blog post.


Limitation

Neither am I an expert in statistics nor am I an expert in running and interpreting polls. Moreover, the experiment happened on Twitter, the panel of answers were given by the people I can reach through this social network and therefore it might probably not be enough representative.

That’s why do not take anything you are about to read as granted. Please do see these figures and comments as hints, nothing more, nothing less.

Also please do note that I am a Progressive Web Apps aficionado. I can try to remain impartial but of course in case of equality, I might be more positive than negative 😉.


47% Of The Developers Do Not Use PWA

I am using almost on a daily basis, the Progressive Web Apps of DEV.to and I am now giving a try to the Twitter one too. But beside these, I do not think that I am using any others on my phone on a weekly basis. That’s why I was firstly interested by the question of adoption.

To my surprise, 47% of the developers are not using any PWA, installed on their phone home screen, on a weekly basis.

Even though I tend to think that probably the number should be lower in reality, as many developers are probably using PWA with their browser, this number is quite important.

Of course the main reason for such a rejection rate, as the next chapter will display, is the lack of proper support for PWA on iOS.

Nevertheless, it still means that almost one of two developers do not use PWA and this makes me personally a bit “worried” for the future of the technology on mobile devices. How is it ever going to be accepted by a wider audience, if even developers who program the applications do not or cannot use these?

On the other hand and on a positive note, I should probably not see the glass half empty but rather half full, **29% **of the developers, one of three, are using two or more PWA on a weekly basis. This instantly makes me believe again 😁.

It is also interesting to note that some developers are not pinning PWA on their home screen but are using multiple (4+) PWA on their desktops on a weekly basis.

This leads me to the following idea: What if the future of Progressive Web Apps is actually not the on mobile phones (in a first place) but rather on desktops? What if actually desktops are going to make these popular before they become popular on mobile phones afterwards? If these assumption are true, would that then mean that Google was right with its Chrome Book since the begin? Or does Google push forward PWA because they believe in Chrome Book?

That is probably too much interpretation or assumptions, but I am really looking forward to the future to get to know if this evolves in this way or not.


63% Of Those Who Do Not Use PWA Are On iOS

As I said above, no surprise here, the partial support on iOS is the main reason why the developers do not use PWA. 63% of these who do not use PWA have iPhones. It means that 30% of all developers are not using PWA simply because they have a phone made by Apple.

Moreover than the partial support, it also seems, again according comments I received, that developers are giving up using PWA on iOS because Apple are not displaying any automatic “Add to home screen” popup, making them confuse about where to find the option. Apple forbidding any other browser to implement such a feature on their devices does not ease the problem.

I gave it a try and that’s correct, the UX is kind of frustrating but it is possible to install PWA on your iOS home screen. If you are interested, proceed as I displayed in the following tweet.

Note that you can add any websites to your home screen but only these which are proper PWA are going to act as stand-alone app. Thank you Julio for your accurate feedbacks 👍.

Speaking of, I also took the opportunity to gave a try to the “Add to home screen” UX of the Firefox mobile on Android, as I never tried it before. Believe me or not, I think it is actually the best one. The Chrome one is good but I almost had the feeling that Firefox was taking me by the hand and told me “Here David, come, I gonna show you how you can properly add a PWA to your phone”.

I do not know if any designer at Firefox will ever read these lines, but if you do, congratulations, amazing work!


8% Of The Developers Rather Like Apps From Google Play

If 30% of all developers are not using PWA because of their iPhones, 17% do not use these too, even though they own Android phones which are, at least to my eyes, really “PWA friendly”. That’s why I ran a final poll to figure out why?

It took me some times to think about possible solutions and I fear that my suggestions made the poll a bit too oriented. Maybe I should have better use an open question.

That being said, it seems that most developers, 44% of these who do not use PWA on Android, 7% of all of them, do not use Progressive Web Apps but rather get applications for the store, respectively Google Play, because they feel like their UX or design is better.

To be honest with you, I do not know how to interpret this fact. To me, there can be ugly and not performant web applications as much as there can be bad “native” applications (or coming from store) for the same reasons. I think that it is all about concept and execution. Regardless of the technologies, if badly implemented or designed, it will not be stunning at the end.

Worth to notice: Following a feedback which mentioned that PWA are maybe most suited for low end devices, I was curious to know if Kaios does support Progressive Web Apps. Guess what? They do not just support PWA, it is also possible to publish these in their store.


Conclusion

Maybe the future of Progressive Web Apps is the desktop? Or maybe its future on mobile devices is the stores, as it is possible to publish them in both Kaios store and Google Play? Or maybe one day the EU will be able to make Apple become PWA friendly? Who knows…

But for sure, I learned some interesting hints and I still do believe in Progressive Web Apps for the future.

Moreover, I just added a reminder for June 2021 in my calendar to run such polls again, let’s see next year how the subject evolved.

Meanwhile, I am most looking forward to hear your feedbacks and thought. Ping me with your best comments!

To infinity and beyond

David

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David Dal Busco

@daviddalbusco

Creator of DeckDeckGo | Organizer of the Ionic Zürich Meetup

Discussion

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I think there are a few issues with adoption:

  1. A lot of sites that should not be a PWA spam the add to home pop up. I think this is getting Android users accustom to reflexively clicking no.
  2. I think low Apple adoption is because of ease of you. You mentioned 2 clicks and a swipe.
  3. People don't install and use that many apps generally.

Personally, I have DEV.to and a personal app I made to track my evaporative cooler efficiency on my homage (had a covid tracker for a while to). That's it. Unless it's useful, I don't keep it.
I think number

  1. The browser manufacturers need more stringent restrictions, or developers need to be more thoughtful as a whole.
  2. can be mitigated with some cleaver pop up designs that only show after some interactions, and provide clear install instructions.
  3. That's just the way it is

Thanks for another great article. I always enjoy your posts about PWAs very insightful!

 

Thank you for your interesting feedback Bryan and happy to hear you like my small articles 😃.

Regarding your arguments, with which I am mostly agree, I ask my self if it isn't why Google changed their way presenting the popup. I think at the begin they displayed it as soon as Android detected a PWA but now, if I am not wrong, it might need a couple of seconds/interactions before they do so. That would match one of your point.

I don't know neither how to improve the adoption. I use DEV and following this article Twitter as PWA. Both are great but I'm an Android user, so it makes it more convenient than on iOS.

To keep faith in it I like to remember that Rogue One quote: "Rebellions are built on hope" 😉

 

Yeah, that's true with Google. I think they need to keep playing with it, but we don't shoot for perfection. Progress is the goal.

I like your optimism, I am with you 😃

 

You are using a lot of PWAs... but just wrapped up in a native app. You could argue that's not a PWA anymore, but I think the idea of making a website that turns into an app with minimal changes is very much a reality. This is what Basecamp does for all its apps.

Admittedly I think as the UX of a PWA gets better, more people will use it. The other thing that prevents lots of people is that using the mobile website, if designed well, isn't that bad of an experience. I do this with Twitter & Reddit a lot. I don't have to download and have the app on my home screen, it's not that much slower, and I can have multiple tabs open and switch between them easier than the awkward half browser window that opens ever time I click on a link.

I think PWAs and just mobile websites over apps are going to become more and more of a pattern as browser animation performance comes up to par.

 

I develop apps with Ionic so I get what you mean with "you are already using a lot of PWAs but just wrapped in native apps" 😉.

You are not the first I hear telling me that he/she rather like to use the browser because of the tabs, that's definitely an interesting point.

Finally, I like your positivity to expect more and more such pattern! Thx for your comment.

 

I mean if you think about it basically every desktop app uses Electron (or something like it) and that's the norm right now. The main qualm people have with this is that it uses way too much ram but this could be solved if they weren't all using a separate Chrome process which I think is a thing that's already a possibility but I'm not sure.

More or less there's an idea that "all Native is the only way" that is really hindering people from ever having a mobile app at all.

Indeed the development of PWAs might be really promising on desktops, specially if projects like Fugu continue to reduce the gab in terms of native features. The access to the file system, once stable, can maybe even be a first milestone to my opinion...let's see ;)

 

For me, I just hardly ever even install PWA's in general. Even if I know that the application that I am using is a PWA, I hardly ever absolutely add it to my home screen. Mostly that is because unless I am going to use the application every day I just don't add you to my home screen. Unless I am going to use it everyday I can just navigate to the site just as quick.

Even for native applications, I might install them to use them, but I usually uninstall you within a couple of days unless I see that it is an application that I will use continuously.

Though, I am right now developing an application that will be a PWA. That is because the aim of the application is to be easy to get in and out of. I don't want to force anyone to install it to use it. So I will be making it a PWA, but I don't actually expect people to install it on their home screens. In my opinion you should not develop a PWA expecting people to actually install it.

Now with that all that said it is my goal to develop a native app to go with the PWA. That is because while developing this PWA I have found there a few limitations that the web still can't do yet that a native app can bring a better experience for, for the people that want it. So I do think the web and PWA's still need to grow more.

 

It makes sense and I can related to some extension. For example I do not use bookmarks and know where I go often, otherwise I use a search engine.

Moreover your feedback make me think that maybe the assumption that PWA are entry point to gain clients but that these, who really felt in love with your services, are going to get an app through the stores, is valid.

Finally, I ask myself if it is possible to develop a proper PWA but to explicitly set that no "Add to home screen" popup should be presented? I should double check but I do not think that this exists (yet). Good point.

 

It's quite unfortunate, really...

It's very dismaying, but the way I see it (as a user), PWAs are just not intuitive because they are inherently decentralized. The independence is good, but at the end of the day, I prefer browsing the Play Store simply because it already has a universal catalog of apps. It's just easier to use.

On the other hand, PWAs have to be installed on a per-site basis. Until PWAs have an established universal platform on which apps can be discovered, then nobody will ever discover those apps.

I'm not advocating for a monopolization of an app catalog as in the Play Store or Apple Store, but there has to be some reliable and established websites out there that serve as "catalogs". Even better, allowing PWAs into the app stores should be a proper solution as well.

In summary, as cool as decentralization sounds, it is not easy to use from a user standpoint. But then again, that's my opinion on it as a user.

 

It makes totally sense, we can probably also add that we, as users, are now used to browse stores.

Good things is, it is now possible to add PWA to Google Play. I recently used the PWA Builder to ease the process to bring DeckDeckGo to the store, maybe that's actually the future? Being able to stick to PWA but having the opportunity to bring these in stores too? If so, let's hope that Apple will wake up or at some point will hate to follow the movement.

Thank you for your feedback!

 

Precisely! It's not that PWAs are terrible; it's just that the UX of app discovery and installation are extremely tedious and cumbersome.

Hopefully these stores stops will make this better or someone will have a genius idea 🤞

 

Thanks David for this article, especially for the polls and background-infos.
Here's my story with PWAs: For a loooong time I heard "PWA" come up in articles and blog posts, but I felt it was too unimportant to have a look at it, let alone build one myself. I only knew what the acronym means, and nothing more. PWAs occasionally crossed my path on the internet, but I still didn't bother. Then, a few days ago, I added dev.to to my start screen - without even knowing it was a PWA - and was wondering why it took Chrome so long, and when I first opened it I was a bit confused. No address bar, no menu, nothing. And it felt "just like a mobile app". Quite nice, actually. It's a bit magical, and I bet that very few people, and literally NO non-tech people, know about the concept of PWAs. A few days later I stumbled upon your post, just when the dev.to PWA was still pretty new to me, which was a funny coincidence. I thought about the recent trouble of Hey (that new email thing from the basecamp team) with the Apple App Store, and how my colleague, who manages our apps on App Store and Play Store, hates Apple's App Store for it's random technical and policy-changing issues that cost him literally a few hours per week to solve. PWAs seem like a good thing in this context, liberating app distribution, it feels like a good match to other de-centralizing efforts.
I'm pitching a solution next monday which, when being sponsored, might be a good fit for a PWA, but I'd still be very skeptical about building one. [App/Play] Store are a good marketing instrument which makes your App and your brand visible to a wider audience. All in all, I think that PWAs still have a long way to go, if they even ever will go mainstream. The decentralized, independent nature is very appealing, though.

 

Thank you for sharing this story, indeed a funny coincidence and it was a nice read 😉

Agree with you, in terms of business, there are still some uncertainty about PWAs. Also to my high, a certain lack of statistics to know if a wider (non tech) audience accept and use these. Probably few I am guessing but I might be surprised.

Regarding the solution you are pitching next week, note that framework like Ionic, which I use often, are making possible to write apps with the same code base for iOS, Android and PWA. Depending of the features you are in need, there are possibilities to already include PWA in a plan where the apps are also ship in stores.

 

Thanks for the article, David! As a web developer, I wish PWA has more supports but right now sadly, I am not actively putting effort into it nor do I use any of it currently. (I mean those added to home screen PWA)

I think part of the reason is that Apple hindering its development, even though I recall Steve Job is one of the earliest to introduce the concept of PWA. You can tell from how they deliberately put the "Add to Home Screen" button under the visible area of the share sheet. (Not blaming Apple, they have their concerns.)

There are many implementation details in developing PWA, including offline support, notification, versioning, etc. But if half or more than half of your users are not able to use those features, or if you have to educate your users to install an app in a specific way while you are uncertain how it may go away in the future, you are less motivated to learn and develop it or convince a client to do so.

To be honest, as a user, I don't find many PWAs that I like to use. There are certainly some good PWAs out there, incl DEV, Twitter, Instagram. m.uber is an impressive one that are created for the low-ended market. But to keep up with the latest features, I tend to switch back to native apps.

I am also curious about the future of PWA, especially when the native app market is saturating. Maybe PWA will grow into more of a concept than a certain type of apps. Anyway, I'd always bet on web tech. Let's see the poll result on June 2021. 😎

 

I think you highlight something really important about "educating the users". When I ran my test I was amazed by the Firefox UX because I really felt it went smoothly and to some extension, I should have not be. It would be so nice if it would works seamlessly but as long as it is not the case, it might be difficult for a wide audience to get into it.

Let's see next years poll results, finger crossed to a larger adoption 😁.

Thank you for your comment and read!

 

I'm still banking on PWAs for a bunch of business to consumer things. Like being able to tweet a customer a link to something that is actually an app that they could choose to install to track an issue etc. I agree that the Apple situation is still frustrating.

 

Definitely, deep linking is so much easier for both developer and user with PWA, you make a valid point 👍